NOTW Cause-Washing

Ok so everyone has an opinion about the closure of the News of the World, who should resign, who shouldn’t. It will go on for weeks and months. Sadly good people have lost jobs.

My moan of the day though is about this:

We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers.

This was part of the statement made by James Murdoch when he announced the closure of the paper. This is nothing more than what I call “Cause Washing“.

Why is it that anytime someone does something wrong or something goes wrong the default response is, “we will donate it to charity…that will make it all okay” It doesn’t, you are just trying to purge your demons.

Charities need to take a stand.

Do not accept this offer. Say no to it. Let’s not lower ourselves to this patronising offer from Murdoch.


What do you think?


22 thoughts on “NOTW Cause-Washing

  1. I think this is a difficult one. I think most people who work for charities would love to get one over on Murdoch (me included) but as fundraisers we also have a duty to raise money for the people we help.

    For example, over 10 million people are currently facing starvation in east Africa. Should the DEC not place a series of ads in the paper which could potentially raise hundreds of thousnads and save lives because we would like to give two fingers to Murdoch?

    With our duty to our beneficiaries shouldn’t we put politics aside and focus on bringing in the cash?

    Following this line of reasoning though, you can end up saying that anything is fine in fundraising as long as it raises money, which is obviously not true. There has to be boundaries and there’s always a fine line between what’s acceptable or not in raising money.

    I’m torn as to whether advertising would be ok or not but if I had to choose I would say that placing an ad would be ok. I think that the potential gains of exposure, reach and income outway the association with the “cause washing”.

  2. Hi Andrew

    Well you may not be surprised to hear me say I would agree with your second point. We have to know when to say no. I think accepting this offer actually damages the reputations of charities. Fundamentally we should spend on advertising and so shouldn’t rely on freebies (thats another debate). But this aligns us to an organisation that has done wrong. It is a cynical and patronising attempt by Murdoch to try and gloss over what has happened. “Oh look aren’t we great, we donated a bit of space to charity”. If you are that philanthropic you should always do it.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment


  3. I wonder what NOTW would allow you to print? Could a relevant charity use the advertising space to say how the actions of NOTW were deplorable, why it is relevant to the charity, and what your support of the charity would mean.

    Best of both worlds: you get the advertisement but you also get to vocalise that you in no way condone or support NOTW.

    Big assumption that they’d print that though! Surely they wouldn’t??

    • Is it really best of both worlds? I do think it would be funny though…you are kind of thinking along the lines of Howard Lake. I am not trying to be holy-ier than thou on this, I just think charities shouldnt stoop!

      • To a certain extent I think it is the best of both worlds. And I think I am on the side of the fence that this is an opportunity that can be taken if it is on the charity’s terms. But it is important for the ad to vocalise this.

        I’m thinking a pure black and white text only ad. We don’t agree with what has happened. But this is an opportunity for us to connect with you the reader in a way we normally could not afford to do. We believe in using our supporters donations as cost-effectively as possible and free advertising space does this.
        We hope you will take the time to visit our website to learn more about the amazing work we do and how we use all funding to its maximum potential.

      • It just feels all wrong to me. Broader conversation is about charities advertising. They should and so they shouldnt have to use the line “in a way we normally could not afford to”

      • I totally agree they should be advertising but the fact is most charities could not normally afford an ad in a paper with this size of circulation.

        It does all feel wrong. My ideal is there would be no paper on Sunday. Or nobody at all would buy it. But from a charity point of view I think the smart move would be to go for it in a manner similar to what I’ve described.

      • Thanks again Simon for the comment. I know we agree on the advertising broader argument. I see it as very black and white…and Im stubborn so I wont back down!!! Let’s see who caves!

      • It’s almost like Marketing vs Fundraising. Conor vs Simon. We might just have to agree to disagree and let’s see what happens on Sunday! It’ll be the first News of the World I’ve ever bought…

      • Ha Ha….yeh. Sunday will be interesting. Reckon I may get kicked out of the spar for reading the paper…..refuse to buy it!!!

  4. I think you’re over-simplifying things. I’m sure Murdoch does not expect that donating the ad space to charity will make it all OK, and doesn’t intend the gesture to be taken that way. It’s nothing more than part of the axing package, and there are much bigger fish to fry than this. What would you have said if they’d just ploughed on with paid advertising?

    • I dont think I am. I think if so many major brands hadn’t pulled out they would have gone ahead with paid advertising. If he isnt doing it to try make it ok, then why is he doing it. His actual words were:

      “While we may never be able to make up for distress that has been caused, the right thing to do is for every penny of the circulation revenue we receive this weekend to go to organisations – many of whom are long-term friends and partners – that improve life in Britain and are devoted to treating others with dignity.
      We will run no commercial advertisements this weekend. Any advertising space in this last edition will be donated to causes and charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers.”

      • I agree it’s a last-resort option that he has been forced into by big advertisers pulling out. However, I don’t think that this is an attempt at redemption – he knows most people will see straight through the spin in the statement.

        We can’t expect him to come out saying: ‘Our advertisers have abandoned us, so charities might as well have the space.’ – it’s what he doesn’t say that is important.

      • Hi Dana…thanks for the comment again. Is ‘Our advertisers have abandoned us, so charities might as well have the space.’ not exactly the reason he is doing this? I think charities are better than this, at least I hope they are

  5. Better than what? They have an opportunity to be seen by millions of readers, most of whom we can safely say do not support the editorial decisions of the NotW. I totally agree with you re. why he’s doing this, but I don’t think it has any bearing on whether or not charities should appear in the last edition.

    I don’t see why accepting the ad space is demeaning – they can’t exactly be accused of supporting the NotW when the advertising is free and the audience is well-informed of the circumstances surrounding the edition.

    • Thanks Dana for the comment.

      I just think charities shouldnt be seen as the poor relation. I wonder why he didnt offer SME’s or start ups the space??

      I do see it as a black and white issue, and like I said to Simon….Im stubborn!!!

      I will be really interested to see who opts in (does this mean I buy the paper….probably not!)

      • Interesting point re. SMEs or start ups, but then I suppose if Murdoch went with that option people might suspect some sort of evil ulterior agenda. A focus on charities is much easier to explain away, and given the timescales it’s also much easier to organise.

        The way I see it, this as an opportunity for charities, not an insult. And yes, I’ll also be very interested to see who opts in 🙂

  6. Conor, I don’t agree. I think it would be very different if News International was directly making donations to selected charities, as some form of recompense for what their paper has done. I think that would clearly qualify as cause-washing, and could very well be sertiously unethical for charities to accept.

    However, that isn’t what’s happening – instead some people are going to buy the NOTW today and see a raft of charity ads, and those charities are going to receive donations from the readers. That strikes me as OK. The paper will end today, so there is no product left to wash. And I don’t think NI has got any PR benefit from this, whatever, as it is such a blatantly obvious move.

    But today, for one day only, some charities that could never have afforded the ad space in a national paper have got it, and some have been able to do full page, colour ads for free. A small thing in the bigger scheme maybe, but I hope they do get some benefit from it 🙂

    • Hi Adrian,

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. It really is interesting to see the differing points of view on this. And there certainly is the argument to be made that charities should avail of any free advertising they can get their hands on (broader debate here on the need for charities to actually spend and be a bit more targeted!).

      My issue here is with the NOTW defaulting to “Lets give the space to charity”. I think it belittles the professionalism of charities. I question why he didn’t chose to offer the space to start ups or SME’s that need a boost. He went the charity route for a specific reason…and in my mind that is cause-washing.

      As an aside they did give the proceeds from the sales to charity too. “In addition, I have decided that all of the News Of The World’s revenue this weekend will go to good causes.

      I guess it’s all water under the bridge now though, as the saying goes “yesterday’s newspaper is today’s fish-wrap,”!

      Thanks again for the comment


  7. Just a point of interest on this, Charities in Irish version are: Camara, Sightsavers, Irish Heart Foundation, Gorta, SBHI, Fighting Blindness, Jack & Jill, Debra, and SVP.

    I can’t see any mention if who the profits are being donated to. Apparently the UK version lists the beneficiaries. My assumption is that UK charities will be the beneficiaries of Irish profits.

    Disappointed to see so innovative ads unique to this situation – just the usual stock ads. In fact, a few of them are distorted or out of focus.

    • Writing this on the mobile so a few typos there! Meant disappointed to see *no* innovative ads.

    • Thanks Simon….you bought the paper so!!

      To me it looked like they couldnt even fill all the space with charity ads so just re-sized them. I will have to have a word with some of the people who advertised to try understand their thinking!!!


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